Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why be Special...When You Can Be Yourself

A couple of years ago, I went to Satsang with a teacher called Mooji. I had a specific question I wanted to ask about a woman's ability to become a spiritual master. My belief was a woman could be a devotee, mystic, even spiritually awakened, but a That's a job for the boys.

It took me two hours to get to ask my question and when I finally did, I was amazed at Mooji's response. He totally understood where my question was coming from and he spoke about the desire to be a Master. The title of this post is one of the most profound things he said to me. So, being myself is something I am now committed to.

What does it mean to be 'yourself?' It means to be completely natural. To live in the present and to self-express your feelings in each moment. The latter is a challenge for human beings because, for the most part, we hide behind bromides and platitudes like 'I'm fine.' But being natural and authentic demands that we be honest about our feelings at every moment, and honest about relations with ourselves and others actually transpire. This is the way of the Tao — effortless action.

My spiritual journey has moved from a time when I put so much effort into studying and practicing Mahayana Buddhism to now and a practice I qualify as being completely effortless. Every morning, I undertake a spiritual practice, not because of the amount of effort it requires or because I feel I have to do it to sustain a state of peace, calm, or bliss, but because I enjoy it.

The mornings that I don't do it, I acknowledge that I didn't do it and I am straight with myself about why — I don't hide behind excuses, reasons or  explanations. To be authentic and natural, it is vital that consciousness is always in the present. Past and future do not exist. The past was once the present and the future will one day be the present so all there is the present — THE NOW. With naturalness, with nothing forced, a state of enlightenment will reveal itself in the way it is meant to...naturally and effortlessly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Open Letter to Dr. Oz and Wife, Lisa

Lisa & Mehmet Oz,

I'm sure you've heard of Kundalini. But do you understand its capabilities? I ask because my Kundalini experience has deep, biological healing implications. I've written about it in Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time.

I realize you get a lot of submissions, don't have time to pursue all of them, especially the more "alternative" variety. I understand that you take a lot of heat for offering alternative healing strategies as options. But...Kundalini is biological fact. Google Kundalini and you will be submerged by a tidal wave of various accounts and theories.

I'm concerned with only one. Mine! You can read about it in my book. In the meantime, here's a nutshell summary:
"When I was seven-years-old, I accidentally ran into a wall running away from some boys chasing me. A large splinter lodged in my foot. For reasons known only to that seven-year-old boy, I hid its presence from everyone. I was taken to Doctor's Hospital in NYC, given penicillin and blood. I drifted into a coma-like state for three months. Then when the wound healed over, I was shipped off to Florida to live with my father. After a while the doctor there noticed the splinter starting to work its way to the surface, so he removed it. 
"When I started school the next year, I noticed that my ability at math and singing (I was very good at both) had vanished. I was also an excellent tennis player. No longer; all my talents had disappeared.

"My body changed, and, as a consequence, my whole persona — through grade school, high school and college — changed with it. My perfect, symmetrical body had changed; I was now asymmetrical, a completely different somatic entity, not only my body, my being as well. The accident affected the way I acted, the way I thought about and presented myself. Needless to say, for the worse, an entirely negative self-image that besets an individual without talent.
Kundalini Meditation on the beach at Trinidad
Practicing Golden Flower Meditation
"When I was thirty, I stated meditating using the method in The Secret of the Golden Flower. At first, I was restless; I didn't seem to be "getting it" or getting anywhere. Nevertheless, I continued to practice. About 100 days in, I noticed a sensation at the base of the spine that felt like the cracking of a small egg and the spilling out of its contents, which began to climb my spine. In one month it reached the top of my head and energy poured into my brain, lit it up. I could see inside my brain, see the third eye, taste the sweet elixir it sprayed on parts of the brain, which, once it touched my brain had an immediate effect on a corresponding part of my body.
"One particular part of the process involved the opening up of the solar plexus and the release of a force-field of energy that shot out from the solar plexus in an arced trajectory to the third eye, which opened like a castanet to receive this energy. Once received, the third eye sprayed this energy on various sections of my brain, energizing and revitalizing various parts and organs."
This energy (Kundalini) has been active 24/7 since that day 40-years ago. What's more, from that day to this time, it has labored to restore my body to its state before my accident. Not the body of a seven-year-old; the symmetrical body I would have grown into had the accident never taken place.

It's ironic; I never talk to doctors about this because their eyes glaze over. I bring the story to your attention, however, because this week's The New Yorker article leads me to believe there might be just enough interest in your organization to pursue it.

So why is this important for medical science? Suppose you accept my account, that the Kundalini energy has been able to reconstruct my body, to restore it to its planned original, perfect state, with all its talents,
as if the accident never occurred. If this is true, where did the plans/blueprints for my perfect body reside from the age of seven (my accident) to thirty (started meditation)? In some ethereal computer memory-like storage? In DNA? In some metaphysical compartment associated with my being?

Shouldn't science explore this, wonder if there are plans for our substantiation? That these plans remain associated with us despite deformation or illness? That Kundalini energy can access these blueprints and then use the nervous system to convey healing energy to affected areas? That this work continues until completed? That our bodies hold extraordinary energies, little known, little appreciated by science because we only have anecdotal accounts like mine that cannot be verified by scientific methods at the time?

That's my story. As soon as the Kundalini became active, it started to restore my body according to its blueprint. Anecdotal or not, I know this to be true because I've lived it. At first I couldn't believe it but after 40 years of observing
it at work in the laboratory of my own body, I do now.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some Myths and Obstacles I Have Had to Deal With - Part 1

Once the Kundalini awakens, it leads the individual to whatever needs to be done by the individual. Personally, I  feel that guidance very strongly. The idea that Kundalini will lay dormant because the individual wants it to is totally wrong. One learns to align oneself with the energy and to co-operate with it, allowing the process to run smoothly in the background. Any attempts to subjugate the energy will create problems as long as they are guided by the very ego the energy is trying to dissolve.

There is no normal life separate from Kundalini life. One leads a super-normal and highly satisfying life in all facets of existence when the work proceeds uninhibited by the ego. The personality achieves perfect alignment with divine will, yin and yang elements balanced in perfect harmony with the individual's environment.

How the energy awakens is up to individual karma. That it awakens is due to the intelligence of the energy — much higher than ours which wants to manifest itself and chooses the right time to make its appearance.

The whole idea of an accidental or spontaneous Kundalini awakening is a myth. As I read more, I started to understand the process subjectively. I realized that the thirst for knowledge in an individual, his or her ability to walk on a path of self-realization, and the awakening of the Kundalini are complementary events. Baggage carried over from a past life or some combination of genetic and environmental factors often lead the person towards these goals.

The person looks for rational explanations for his actions and will give logical reasons as to why he chose to do yoga at a certain point in time and why he chose meditation. The higher consciousness guides the inner spirit to do these things, and when they aren't undertaken at the proper moment, the spirit becomes miserable, inducing states of physical or emotional distress. However, even when these miseries build up beyond the tipping point, it leads to traumatic events, some sort of nervous breakdown, which then guides the individual indirectly towards self-realization. If we ignore it long enough, the spirit finds other ways to make itself manifest.
Sea bird, a turn, high in the blue sky
Soaring High
When people complain about spontaneous awakenings and the horrors they endure, we must understood it is their egos that are doing the complaining.

We are conditioned to living in a comfort zone of what is acceptable and what is not within certain parameters of what we consider normal. When it awakens, the energy has no interest in man-made ideas or boundaries imposed by social conditioning. It wants to correct old patterns of self-destructive behavior, remove limitations and expose the highest potential in each individual according to his or her permutations of physical, mental and emotional characteristics.

In this process, the original ego is destroyed. The analogy of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or a seed becoming a tree are very apt. The seed has to be destroyed for it to become a tree; there is no separate caterpillar remaining at the end of the transformational process. Both processes change the life-form completely. The dying ego thinks of the body as its own vessel. It wants to cling. It creates stories about the horrors it has had to endure.
North Carolina beach house
Returning Home
The various religious traditions are very helpful in making the process go smoothly, however, this path has its own pitfalls. All religions are the result of visions experienced by individuals —perceptions of a higher reality that transcend our mundane earthly realm and the perceiver's subsequent written accounts of these experiences.

In the course of so doing, they identify a kernel of truth, which is then surrounded by myth, dogma and rigid ritualistic tradition by spinmeisters, promoters,  and hangers-on.

What helps the Kundalini awakened individual though, is his/her ability to intuit what needs to be followed and what needs to be discarded. It is not a fool-proof process — one does make mistakes — but by and large, when I find a book I like, I soon realize the writer was touched by the divine force in some way. It is illuminating to read the words of someone who has understood, at the very core of his being, what the higher reality is. To glimpse it once is enough for a person to change his life 180 degrees in order to have more glimpses in the future.

Another myth I've had to deal with is people's exaggerated expectations. Thanks to countless descriptions of the supernatural, normal people often assume Kundalini awakenings are accompanied by the immediate appearance of magical powers, where I suddenly start reading thoughts, levitating, or turning water into wine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Kundalini is the ultimate GIGO process. GIGO is the term used by computer programmers to describe the outcome of a software run when the underlying code is bad.

Some Myths and Obstacles I Have Had to Deal With - Part 2

GIGO is the term used by computer programmers to describe the outcome of a software run, if the underlying code is bad. It means Garbage-In, Garbage-Out.

Kundalini is a means towards realizing your higher self, devoid of all junk DNA you might have picked up over years and lifetimes. The more effort you put into aligning yourself with it, as the process unfolds, the better the results. Sometimes, this could mean, as it did in my case, giving up a high-stress job in a field I hated and following my true vocation in creative and artistic fields.

I am a much better artist than corporate scientist. I still love research: the more Kundalini-related work I do for my own pleasure — using the scientific method I learned in school — as opposed to research for some corporate entity. The meditation I use now had to be learned using discipline. I still had to discipline myself to pick up the guitar or the camera and learn its basics. Still had to read books and understand the basics of consciousness.

The body along with all its faculties, mental and physicalis the tool we have to guide the process. The cultivation of new habits allows us to discard the old self and permits the new self to occupy our beings permanently.

If, on the other hand, I choose to watch TV, not exercise, not follow my heart or take prescription drugs to suppress the energy, I will not benefit from being awakened. There is no substitute for hard work and total devotion.
North Carolina beach front properties
Beach Front
Sometimes, we imagine the path as too difficult, filled with insurmountable obstacles, but that is only a myth the recalcitrant ego wants us to buy into. It thinks the world is the only reality. It doesn't want to give into "weak" emotions. It scoffs at you. Laughs when you want to write poetry. Especially with the upbringing I had to endure, where appearing "tough" was a primal value. 

The transition to being oneself and not giving a hoot who says what has been hard. However, it gets easier each day as I compare myself to the old Vivek and to where "old friends" still are, in terms of their mindsets and mental progress, and where I might have been had Kundalini not intervened when it did.
Pilings of the Jetty
When I look back at events that happened around my 14th, 21st and 28th birthdays, I now believe that my process was preordained at an early age. Certain Kundalini lore states a person's life is divided into seven periods, starting from birth up to the age of 49. When I trace my lifeline back and look at the chronology of events, I realize that significant changes, either in myself or my surroundings, took place around those milestones.

Outside influences such as parental pressure or the company of ne'er do-well types either distracted me or tried to steer me away from my predestined path — my destiny. Nevertheless, I was guided to awaken the energy within.

So here I am, at 38, having gone through an uphill struggle over the last six years, coming out much better than I was before and ready for the challenges ahead, with the new techniques at my disposal to deal with what life throws at me.
North Carolina sand dunes
The Dunes
Ironically, obstacles to further progress are often put there by individuals who pride themselves on the years they spent reading about metaphysics, being experts, pundits, dilettantes, or “really into that stuff. The “those-who-were-always-psychic-and-could-tell-how-my-cat-was-going-to-poop-and-when” types. Presuming that they knew allowed them to believe I was one they could preach to, since I had “just started” the process.

Let me correct you once and for all, folks. Please take this in the right spirit (no pun intended). Once a person has seen, lived through, experiencedcall it what you want — once someone has seen "it" even for a moment, whether it be because of LSD, Mescaline, transcendental sex, through meditation, shaktipat, his/her existence will be totally different from that of ordinary folk.

From that point onwards, it's like watching the movie Titanic as opposed to actually being on the Titanic when it hits the iceberg. You get to walk out of the theater when the movie ends; he has to scurry around the ship and hope he isn't trampled getting to a lifeboat, or die in a fire in the engine room.

Please be gentle to the people around you going through this process. One goes through a physical rearrangement that can't be talked about openly. It leads to a better place, but it's NOT easy. Nor does it have anything in common with what's written in books, except as a description. It's like New York City described in a travel article as opposed to the actual smells, sights and tastes experienced while visiting New York...except in this case, it's more like visiting Hogwarts.

How to Work Towards Self-realization while Staying Detached

Sometimes I am glad that I had no actual plans of working towards a Kundalini awakening when it happened. No expectations. Once one reads the stories of seeing lights, hearing sounds, visions of gods and angels, powers of levitation, etc., one starts to compare one's own process to those accounts, leading one to conclude one's process is a failure, even when one is having a genuine awakening.

The energy takes its own course and you (as in the ego that believes itself the true owner and driver of the body) and your feelings and expectations are the least of the Kundalini energy's concerns. It is waiting to transform the body that has been leased to the ego until the true owner arrives. Once the energy rises, it effects changes in the body as per the original DNA blueprint created at the moment of conception, at the same time, it provides insight to the ego on a need-to-know basis.

The best way to approach anything is to have no expectation of an outcome. This applies to everything in life. Before I put a label on myself, lets say, Photographer, for example, there was no expectation of taking good photos. I did it for the joy of doing it. The label acts as a limiting factor. And once I affix a label, I force myself to take "good" photos that conform to standards set by others, not the ones I love, repeating what I did in the past, trying to live up to it. And it ruins the whole experience, resulting in bad photos.
This, essentially, is what detachment is all about. One must care about the outcome and have some kind of clear idea of what one is working towards, but one must not worry, fret or get frustrated over not reaching that outcome, as and when expected. Care about it, but don't worry about it. 

Discard all labels and apply to yourself or to the process. Be fresh each day, excited to explore something new, unfettered by the weight of expectation.

Playing golf has helped me assimilate the process, because golf, the most spiritual of all sports, teaches you humility, control over your mind. The less one thinks of the outcome, the better one performs the task at hand, be it a 250 yard drive or a 3 foot putt.

JJ mentions the phrase, "non-action through action." One of the best ways to achieve this is to work like ambitious people, the type-A workaholics that strive for power, money and glory, but unlike them, apply the methodical, persistent approach towards spiritual practice and also unlike them, don't hoard what is gained and inflate your (spiritual) ego, but completely surrender the outcome of your actions, both good and bad, to the higher, Primal spirit.
Erector Set
I have cultivated the habit of taking a moment, several times a day, where I hit a 'reset' button. It involves taking a 'snapshot' of the day upto that point and sincerely surrendering everything, all my actions, thoughts, all the days events to the higher power, holding nothing back. I usually follow this by a few moments of deep breathing, exhaling out everything that I want to discard. Once that is done, one is cleansed and can move towards the next moment refreshed, unconstrained by the past.

Another thing that helps is living in day-tight compartments where contents from the previous day are flushed away using the method described above, bringing the mind back to the day at hand, and at the end of that day, taking a mental inventory of what happened THAT day, surrendering it all over again, moving into the next day with the same enthusiasm.

I can sum this up in four points. The practice involves:
  1. Staying in this moment, this hour, this day.
  2. Working towards the goal with a true sense of excitement, but without expectation of outcome.
  3. Accepting ALL that is, accepting oneself completely and every situation that presents itself.
  4. Surrendering all events of that day to the universe, and moving towards the next day.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kundalini and White Tantra Yoga

On Saturday, I attended a day of White Tantra Yoga. As a teacher of Kundalini yoga, continuing professional development is required by the Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association, and completing this day would give me 10 CEU points. I last attended this day two years ago when I began Kundalini yoga training. I had never seen myself as a yoga teacher, but an active Kundalini changed that.

I have written in this blog about my study and practice of Mahayana Buddhism, being motivated solely by my love of the Buddha and everything he said. I had no idea that there was anything beyond this on the spiritual path. So when the Kundalini energy rose during a meditation retreat, I experienced the bliss of the ignorant in that I had no idea what had happened because my mind had no label for it. I was happy enjoying its effects.

Then, one day I found a book, opened the pages and read about this energy called the mind had a label and it went to work producing all kinds of thoughts about being special and having experienced something which wasn't that common. I came out of this ego inflation much humbler, said to myself if I have experienced it, then it makes sense that I should teach it and so I became a Kundalini yoga teacher.

During my time studying and practicing Mahayana Buddhism, I have always struggled with meditation. The duration of each sitting seemed so long. I preferred the practice of mindfulness. I didn't have a label for it either at the time, but being aware of everything that went on within me at all times was a process I discovered on my own through intuition. As for formal meditation, to be totally honest, I have always struggled with it and still do.

The first White Tantra Yoga day I attended two years ago with its 31 minutes and 62 minute meditations was a total nightmare. I was stressed from beginning to end. It was such a shock to my mind, I wound up in McDonalds eating a fishburger (I still ate fish then), chips and a milkshake. The following year I didn't attend this session because the memory — of how awful it was — was still fresh. This year I reasoned that since I had been teaching for almost two years, getting up and doing my own practice — including meditation — maybe I would be okay if I did it again. So I registered, not feeling very happy about it, but also feeling compelled by some force.

I arrived on Saturday morning early and soon the sea of white that are Kundalini yoga teachers and practitioners began to form. I sat at a table looking at happy and friendly faces, wondering to myself what is was that makes me so uncomfortable around the yogi atmosphere, at the same time I feel so committed to Kundalini because I have experienced it. Something just didn't feel right. We started the day with a 31 minute meditation. The aim of White Tantra is to dissolve/transform blocks in the subconscious and the meditations can only be done under the supervision of the Mahan Tantric who was beamed out by video over a huge screen giving instructions for how to do the meditation.

During these meditations I battled with my mind about the usefulness of what I was doing. Anyway, I participated fully in every one of the meditations and to my relief there was only one 62 minute meditation during which my focus became scattered.

I completed the day happy and relieved, and without going to McDonalds, but since then, feeling restless without knowing why. I haven't been able to get up and do my early morning sadhana which until this day I looked forward to.

This morning I was thinking about it. What came to me was the word "responsibility." The spiritual path requires taking responsibility for every area of life. During the transformative self-development training I've done in the past, I got to review events during which decisions I made either limited my possibilities or caused me trauma, which up to then, I had refused to acknowledge. The act of examining these events and the decisions I made as a result freed the unconscious energy so it could be transformed. It takes consciousness to be responsible.

And this is the dilemma I face about any practice that claims to clear subconscious blocks. How can they be cleared if responsibility is not taken? I was never good at taking things on faith; I need to know for myself how transformation and its derivative, the expansion of consciousness, happen. It's not enough just to tell me that attending this day to do these meditations suffices.

From my own experience I know that it is only when I face up to myself and stop running away — which first occurred after Kundalini had risen — that I take responsibility, not to make either myself or others appear wrong, but in just being aware that my consciousness has shifted and expanded.

Once again I was faced with a familiar dilemma, namely accepting what I have been told...versus...what I have experienced, and they couldn't be more different.

Monday, January 21, 2013

'Spiritual' people at higher risk of mental health problems

An article in the London Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago got me thinking. I have always claimed to be spiritual, not religious and this article asserts that "spiritual people struggle to cope mentally more than religious people." The figures are quite dramatic — so-called spiritual people are 77 per cent more likely than the others to be dependent on drugs, 72 per cent more likely to suffer from a phobia, and 50 per cent more likely to have a generalised anxiety.

The study was based on a survey of 7,403 randomly selected men and women in England who were questioned about their spiritual and religious beliefs and their mental state. The researchers concluded that there is increasing evidence that people who profess spiritual beliefs in the absence of a religious framework are more vulnerable to mental disorder.

The article doesn't delve into the reasons why, which leaves the field open for me to offer my own conclusions in this post.

Judging from my own experience, being spiritual is different than being religious in that there are no rules or rituals governing the spiritual life. There is no cozy community of like-minded people, no conformist attitudes that favor group-think. Quite the opposite. The spiritual quest is a solitary endeavor, very much a path of the alone, by the alone, for the alone, with not very much light at times. To be spiritual is to turn your attention to what goes on within oneself. It is a path of expanding self-awareness.

Why should such a path carry a risk to mental health? One reason might be that the kind of intense introversion that accompanies a spiritual quest, in terms of the various types of meditation that hold the potential of awakening dormant energies in the body. Activating these energies may result in the person's experiencing various hallucinations either auditory, visually or both. This is not limited solely to those claiming to be spiritual; it can happen as a result of intense trauma, but a surge of this energy into the brain can impact consciousness which could lead to mental health issues, if not managed sensitively.

Religion doesn't carry this same risk. There isn't the same kind of experimentation taking place in the laboratory of the body. Religion is pretty much a passive affair — you attend, you listen, you're told what to believe. Yes, you do pray, often only halfheartedly, and without conviction.

The spiritual quest engages all the senses, the mind and the body, too. It is an active undertaking.

The spiritual quest isn't for everyone. Yet with the proliferation of trendy New Age fads, many unstable individuals dabble with pursuits they should probably avoid. The spiritual quest requires resilience, skepticism, and the ability to troubleshoot. If this sounds like the character qualifications for becoming an engineer, then you're on to what it takes. The spiritual quest is the re-engineering of the Being. Only certain individuals succeed therein.
By focusing on rituals and dogma, religions cultivate a safe, social environment for their followers, one steeped in contradictions: they scorn the pursuit of wealth at the same time they amass it; they extol the simplicity of Jesus at the same time they themselves live lives of opulence. Resilience is unnecessary; skepticism is discouraged; troubleshooting is unheard of.
But while religion is safe, it doesn't produce the richness of mystical experience that Carl Jung once described, "He who looks outside, dreams; he who looks inside, awakens." So while I have had to manage my mental health — to attain the richness I now have — I will always and forever take spiritual over religious.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Do I Need a Teacher?

Two of the most common immediate after-effects of a Kundalini awakening — in the form of ideas that pop into your head — are:
  • Intense feelings that "I" need to do something that improves the condition of all mankind,
  • Overwhelming desire to meet someone in the form of a highly-evolved teacher that knows much more about Kundalini than "I" do.
Both of these usually lead nowhere and here's why: Gopi Krishna had these same feelings after his awakening in India in 1938. He searched the entire country without finding an authentic someone who truly knew more than, or even as much as, he did...and that in India, a country reputed to be at the vanguard of spiritual exploration.

Kundalini is like the midst of the storm, a being tossed and turned before finding calm
Before the Storm
What he did discover is: it's up to the awakened one to fend for him/herself because he/she can do a much better job of managing the Kundalini energy, once they submit. It's a long haul. It took me about one hundred days to awaken Kundalini via GFM, a time period that pales beside the 50 years I've lived with it.

I made up my mind early on that I would give into the Kundalini energy and find a way to accommodate its every whim. Why? Very simple. I realized it had my best interests at heart. That it could do no wrong. It was out to help me forge an "I" out of the "me", at the same time it rectified certain physiological abnormalities.

For good measure here's the account (excerpted from Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time) of my attempt to gather information about my awakening from Swami Muktananda at the moment of his leaving Paris for the US. This is not an attempt to denigrate his ability to confer Shaktipat; I know many people who he performed it on. Rather it is a parable on finding someone to guide you through. Thankfully the lesson I learned was I would have to become my own best teacher.
I have ventured forth in my newly purchased Quatrelle to witness the departure of Swami Muktananda. I’m not keen on the shotgun approach to finding a teacher, especially a sensation like Muktananda, surrounded, as it were, by layers of handlers who seem little more than glorified bouncers. Anyway, someone told me about him. So I thought—what the hell.
To enter the ashram, I have to stand in line and be screened. Waiting to enter the big room, I overhear his acolytes buzzing about who is going to ride with him in the car to the airport. That is the spiritual concern of the day. More like backroom political maneuvering—jockeying for votes, bargaining for influence.
And the prize? Proximity to the guru during the final trip to Charles de Gaulle Airport. The winners get to ride; the losers get to follow in a motorcade. Dressed in robes of saffron, white and red, they huddle by the door whispering and cajoling, earnestly vying to move up the ladder of distinction.

Attended by still more acolytes who buzz around him, the guru is seated on a platform in the big room. I watch him while the bouncers quiz me. I picture Milarepa alone in his Himalayan cave. Somehow, the two don’t jibe.
I have a vague idea about the questions I want to ask, but when I’m finally admitted to the big room, I see it may be impossible. First, I am one of a large group of people seated on the floor. I may never be recognized to speak because of the on-going ritual. All this makes me impatient, for I am only interested in knowing if the illustrious guru has some answers to my specific condition. The ceremony, trappings and schmoozing make me uncomfortable. I’m sorry that I’ve driven through all that Parisian traffic. And now I have to sit through the chanting, which I guess would have its place if the context didn’t resemble a White House press conference with its hubbub of kibitzers and white noise.
If any present are on a spiritual mission, personal or otherwise, I can’t detect it. It seems more like the worship of a particular personality, whose followers take their status from proximity to the Master.

I am probably missing the true meaning of the chanting, but the shuffling, the ritual mutterings of Muktananda, only underline the general impatience, as if everyone in the room is waiting for the mad scramble to the cars.
I can’t remember if he asks for questions, I just remember my hand being in the air at a particular moment and his pointing at me. The noise level drops to zero as I stammer forth. Can’t remember my exact words, only a paraphrase: “I recently spent one year in isolation, meditating. During this time hidden channels in my body were awakened…and eventually energy streamed into a place…a location in my head…that I can only call the third eye. Now, it continues on its own without my intervention, and my head cracks while it does…”

The Guru interrupts me. His acolytes turn their faces expectantly, as if ready to savor his reaction. My fellow floor sitters turn to stare at me.
“It is not possible. The head does not crack. There are no muscles in the head…” replies Muktananda.

Giggles and titters, as if the crowd were saying, “You don’t know that, stupid? Everyone knows that!”
“Then something is cracking in every room I’ve occupied…”
“It wasn’t your head.”
“It must have been the radiators then,” says someone in the crowd.
More derisive laughter. I’m not so much annoyed by people laughing at me as by the complete refusal to accept the possibility of a head cracking. That’s what growth is all about, from infancy to maturity—the head changing imperceptibly over time.
“That is impossible; the skull cannot crack,” he continues.
“But can it change its shape?”
“That is another matter.”
He whispers to someone behind him in a light green robe. Everybody rises. Question time is over.

In his denial, is he saying that it didn’t happen to him so therefore it couldn’t happen…period? I don’t put any limits on the power inside me. Obviously, once maturity is reached, cracking might be difficult, but not impossible. Being him, I would have wanted to hear more. Being me, I believed he could look at me and see my inner workings, and therefore know I was telling the truth.
So, I am disappointed, but not much. It only reinforces what I’ve learned. I figure I need a few experiences like this to learn to ignore conventional wisdom. In the solitude of St. Jean, as a kind of empirical detective, I learned to keep my mouth shut, perhaps by virtue of having no one to talk to. And now, reintroduced into the world, I am flush with success, like I have accomplished something—even though, in my heart of hearts, I know I haven’t. The road is never ending—for as long as I have the strength to push my body out of bed. It’s the same for the ordinary person as it is for the enlightened.
Good for you, I say to myself while walking into the bistro across the street from the ashram. You got laughed at and you deserved it. Now wake up, continue on your way, and forget conventional wisdom—even from the mouths of the so-called enlightened.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mindful Awareness and Affirmations - Powerful Tools for a Total Transformation

During my Kundalini awakening, I realized that the energy taking over, by itself, is not enough to create a fundamental change within the individual.

The ego has an immense amount of control over who we are as people and how we interact with our surroundings. Overtime, we develop habits and rationalize our beliefs to conform to a certain world-view. We have been programmed for power, competition, yet insulted and humiliated into submission by a system of education that demands conformity. We have been, in effect, shrunk down in size. Resentment for achievementtypified by the use of smear tactics to "bring down" public figures — has developed into a favorite social sport, aided and abetted by a complicit media. In fact, public opinion is shaped by what we are told to think about someone or some issue.
Original drawing by the author of his Kundalini awakening, circa 2008

When the Kundalini energy awakens, making you aware of your ego and it's convoluted grip on your soul, it's a shock to the system. Then comes the difficult task of facing the ego mechanism within you, at the same time you realize you must eventually side with the energy in bringing about its destruction.

In my case, for the longest time, I was a gullible person, incautious about the kind of people I associated with. Sound judgment of character and looking beyond the surface eluded me. This led to a series of associations that were not in my best interest. I was manipulated and didn't even know it. When the energy awakened, my third eye area in the center of the forehead throbbed incessantly for a few weeks, producing an avalanche of knowledge, insights, understanding of the nature of reality and consciousness. Within the first few weeks, the process of overhauling my psyche had begun. I was told by my inner voice — the higher power guiding me — to be patient and to go along with the changes, even though they might be difficult.

When the energy began churning my spine, there were intense feelings of hatred, anger, resentment at being misled by others, a collapse of my self-esteem which had been based on the old me, someone totally unaware of his mistakes and the machinations of others he had considered friends. As more and more repressed trauma was churned up to the surface, the loss of self-esteem and my feelings of despair continued. I had to keep reminding myself: these are thoughts. They are in my mind. We all possess anxieties and fear about our future. Before my awakening, I was a stressed out individual, constantly worried about the future.

The cleansing process ripped through my self-esteem and false rationalizations, but left the part of my mind that was  stress-prone and scared unchanged, making things worse. To cope with this aspect of myself, I understood I would need to find methods that utilized my conscious mind.

By this time, I had begun using guided chakra meditation CDs as well as Indian classical music, electronic music with soothing pulsating rhythms that caused the energy to move to its rhythm. The practice of meditation helped a lot. So did reading about the personal experiences of others who had gone through this before me. Overtime, even through the stages of depression, a constant state of mental agitation and mental misery, I started seeing a few patterns.

First and foremost, our brains are like recording mechanisms, like a cassette tape. They record data gathered by the senses from birth, which ultimately becomes the mind, our operating system. Usually a repetitive pattern of set routines, limited assumptions of the world outside and enough independence to operate within the system.

In my case, this tape was being erased at a fast pace. To instill constructive habits, I realized it was important to replace the erased patterns with newer, radically different ideas.

Mindful awareness and affirmations became very useful tools for me and so did learning new skills to re-program the brain. Using an activity that uses both hands, like playing the guitar, helps overcome left-brain dominance and creates new pathways in brain just as the energy is changing its entire structure. The energy makes you aware of the potential you possess and the gifts that can be channeled towards improving not only your skills, but your self-worth as well.

Mindful awareness is the practice of observing each action, each thought, every interaction we have with others and witness the do-er from a higher state — the observer separate from the person doing the action. As one goes into deeper meditative states and practices meditation longer, it becomes easier to use mindful awareness in your daily practice. The mind becomes a very powerful device during a Kundalini awakening.

During a period of a few months, I was able to bring people and events into my life just by thinking about them. This proved to be a problem for my old stress-filled mind, full of fears and worries as it compounded the problems and made my life worse. Our thoughts and ideas, repeated over time, influence our actions and create our future reality. This was a powerful revelation. The use of positive affirmations became a very useful tool. I taped positive affirmations in my own voice and played them on my iPod at night as I went to sleep, allowing the sub-conscious to pick up those suggestions. At other times, I would listen to them using headphones and repeat the words, visualizing the desired outcome.

These tools can be used by anyone. In fact, it is a great idea to use positive affirmations and mindfulness to bring about a change in your life for good rather than allow society and programming from commercials decide your destiny.

Another useful technique was the practice of cathartic writing. Waking up each morning after the energy had churned up some traumatic material, I would then write it down, stream of consciousness style, paying no heed to grammar or coherence. Once the rubbish was on paper, I was free of it, able to move to the next phase. Using the cassette tape analogy again, effectively, cathartic writing helped me discard the programming in my brain that was identified by the Kundalini energy.

Mindful awareness helped me stay in this new state without reverting back to old habits. Using affirmations and doing totally new things, learning new skills, singing, playing the guitar, learning Spanish helped me guide the nascent force inside me to create a new me, writing my own program this time. As a bonus, I was able to make very fast progress in all my chosen pursuits now that the "doors of perception" were open.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kundalini and intuition

What is the relationship between Kundalini and intuition, and is there one?

Intuition, or what is often called "the still small voice," is our inner teacher, hence in-tuition whose purpose is to guide our consciousness on the spiritual path. The strength of intuition depends on the strength of consciousness and as Kundalini is the direct vehicle for expanding consciousness, it follows that Kundalini is inextricably linked with intuition.

Before my Kundalini rose, my intuition was very much mixed in with feelings and emotions. I would get the urge to "do something," but frequently didn't do it if I didn't feel like it.

This kind of intuition originates from the second Chakra which is why it's not pure, untainted intuition. When Kundalini rises, the expansion of consciousness results in intuition emerging at the level of the sixth Chakra, where it is independent of feelings and/or emotions. Intuition at the sixth Chakra is more instructional, if that makes sense. In stating this, I am not saying that intuition from the sixth Chakra is better than the second variety, but only that it lends a different quality to intuition.

Before Kundalini, the still small voice is very quiet and much of the acting upon it comes with a crossing of the fingers and hoping that things works out. Intuition is part of the language of the soul, as is the mind with its thoughts that tend to dominate until the individual cultivates the ability to be still and listen for the "still small voice." Gradually with enough trust, intuition expands, but in the early stages of the spiritual quest, it is not strong.

Kundalini Meditation is one way to access intuition as the aim of meditation is to quiet the mind, so, as it becomes stilled, it allows one to cultivate intuition. Be aware, however, that the mind has no interest in being still or reigning in its never-ending supply of thoughts. It takes intention, as well as trust to nurture the baby shoots of intuition. In my experience, whenever I trusted it and acted on it, it has worked — but only since Kundalini awakened.

So it is well worth thinking about working with intuition because it is an important point of entry into the language of the soul. After intuition comes insight, incubation, and finally illumination when the glory of the Soul stands revealed.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Kundalini and Pop Culture

Yoda, the Matrix, Spiderman, and Batman. Why has our popular culture become so permeated with the quest for super powerful heroes? Do our subconscious imaginations know something our conscious minds don’t? The Dark Side and the Light. Can Pop Culture predict the future? Does the truth about the future of humanity lie hidden in the epic struggles of comic book heroes or in Super Hero Movie blockbusters? Is there a Secret to Life?

I ask because its essence has infused our culture, producing a yearning for something more powerful, more liberating. Since the 1940s, Hollywood has featured movies in which people:

Come back from the dead to instruct the living (Ghost, Heaven Can Wait);

Have guardian angels (It’s a Wonderful Life, Topper, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, The Bishop’s Wife);

Acquire super magical powers (Star Wars, Superman, The Matrix, X-Men).

Ghost (1990), starring Whoopi Goldberg, Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze
If they do it in the movies, if it’s seeped into our consciousness to such an extent, surely there must be something to it. Doesn’t fiction usually foretell reality? Is not actuality rooted in dreams? If there’s nothing to it, then why has so much time and money been spent stimulating our imagination? Why do we spend so much time on stories and fables about the acquisition of extraordinary faculties? Quite simply, because there’s a large body of experience in fact and fiction built up around the acquisition of such faculties.

We shouldn’t be indignant with Hollywood. The purveyors of dreams — pop culture trendsetters and advertising wags, writers and storytellers — are merely channeling the phenomenon of unconscious or collective yearning. What is unconscious yearning?

Unconsciously, we have always yearned for higher states. Our Popular Culture has given us Avatars to aspire to: Batman, Superman, The Hulk, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Spiderman. Heck, Robert Louis Stevenson's best-selling work, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), was little more than a veiled Kundalini awakening gone awry.

Eventually, we will morph into more spirit-based beings. What will this entail? Well, in the first place let’s look at where we’ve come from. Only in this way can we understand where we’re going. Evolution has allowed us to dominate our planet. To do this, we needed raw emotional power, a type of behavioral nature that could not be deterred by any threat to our survival. Immediate survival was the role of the Reptilian brain that psychologists and anthropologists often talk about. Once on the road to dominance, a Mammalian brain was added. This evolutionary adjustment added an emotional component — a capability that allowed our species to develop a strong sense of identity based on simple emotions such as, surprise, fear, anger, sadness, joy and more developed emotions like, remorse, awe, pride, optimism, shame, guilt, love.

Now, to evolve to the next stage of being do we need such powerful emotions? Can we survive in world with less need for aggression and less space per individual owning, as part of our being, emotional states that frequently lead to trouble: wars, family breakdown, addiction, crime, greed, hate crimes? Emotions that many times — more often than not — lead us to make the wrong decision.

Perhaps pop culture, as it relates to the eventual metamorphosis of our species, can shed some light on the subject. I say eventual because it’s not for today. But, if and when it comes, what form will it take?

To illustrate the form this new human being might take, I’ll break down a Pop Culture icon and show how, beneath its many layers of metaphor it contains hidden patterns of unconscious yearning. This icon is none other than Don Siegel’s 1956 masterpiece, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
This review from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) by Brandt Sponseller sums up several of the film’s allegorical levels. “Much has been said about the parallels between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the ‘communist paranoia’ in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, especially as it was directed against Hollywood by the House Un-American Activities Committee. However, there is another very interesting subtext present that isn't often mentioned. The film can also be looked at as a philosophical exploration of personal identity. Just what does it take for people to be themselves? Is it how they look, act, the things they say? Is it not the case that people are constantly transformed into something they weren't just hours ago, or even moments ago? Among the many ways that these kinds of ideas are worked into the script is that sleep is a metaphor for unconscious physical change over time. It would be easy to analyze each scene in the film in this manner, going into detail about the various implications each plot development has on the matter of personal identity.”
Reading this review, I couldn’t help thinking about the common phrase: “He wasn’t himself.” A phrase often applied to persons who are losing emotional control. I don’t know if that’s the direction the author of this review was going in, but control of emotion is really the underlying theme of this movie. Except for human emotion, the original being and its Pod counterpart are alike in every way. Unbeknownst to the screenwriters, who may have thought they were making some sort of statement about Communist witch hunting, the real and hidden theme of the film is a change in being based on mass Kundalini awakening. The next great leap forward in human evolution.
I know this goes against everything you’ve ever heard of or thought about this film. It goes against our revulsion and fear of the Pod People, and our inherent tendency to side with the good guys, who in this case, are us, even though there are no superficial differences between the characters in their Original or Pod avatars. To us, our emotions, our ability to feel love especially, is the single attribute that sets us apart from them, that makes us “right” and them “wrong”. At least, that’s what the authors would have the characters believe, and through them, us. In one scene, the doctor, played by Larry Gates, explains this to Miles and Becky, who are so terrified at the thought of being stripped of their humanity, they can’t even listen. They don’t know Kundalini from nothing. That’s because the authors didn’t either. But unconsciously they took us far beyond Communist conspiracy and McCarthyism. They didn’t know it but they were describing the next stage of human evolution, one where humans, if we are to survive, will no longer need to express emotion in the wanton, destructive ways we do.
Let’s step back for a moment and reflect on the psychology of the screenwriter’s creative process. Since the inspiration comes from the author’s subconscious, it’s reasonable to believe that he had no conscious awareness of the deeper layers of meaning. In the case of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it’s probable that the author wasn’t knowingly aware of the symbolism of a Kundalini awakening, especially if he was preoccupied with the subtextual theme of McCarthyism. Yet, the story has all the earmarks of this experience, at least in allegorical terms. People who fall asleep, only to awaken as new beings that are superior to the old. New beings that threaten the old order because of their superiority. Their superior emotional control, capacity to cooperate, to communicate, to get along, resistance to illness, longevity. The Pod represents the awakening process, the slow formation of the more perfect being, and the results are clearly superior beings.
Resistance, however, is hysterical, even illogical. The author is saying that in spite of the fact that the transformation process is painless and produces a superior being, we should be afraid of it. Why? Because our emotions make us “human.” No mention is made of the destructive power of our emotions. In spite of the fact that today our emotions get in the way of just about everything we need to accomplish.
So, am I saying that we will not succeed as a species unless we can learn to govern our emotions? Up to the industrial revolution we needed powerful emotions to extend our "perceived" dominance over nature. Now we are moving in another direction. In the film, one of the characters talks about emotion as one of the elements that makes us human, that without it, we would not be human. Who knows what it is to be human? We don’t even know when we became human. That we came from the mud, evolved from lower forms is certain, but when did we become human and who’s to say that human being of today shall not evolve into further avatars with even greater powers of awareness? Is our evolution finished? Is our brain incapable of adding entirely new nodes — as it did long ago when it added the neocortex?
These Avatars spring from the depths of our creative imagination, even to the point of laying out a blueprint, in storyboard form, for our transition to a new state of being. That the blueprint should be interpreted by the viewer’s subconscious as something fearful is only normal. Evolution does not come easy. As Mikhail Turovsky said, “The first ape who became a man thus committed treason against his own kind.”
In neuro-biological terms human potential is limitless and our subconscious mind knows it. Where does the subconscious mind get its information? From time to time, the Kundalini, dormant in most of us, nudges our subconscious. Some of these contents come to us in the form of dreams and inspirations of various sorts. In men of genius, it endows them with extraordinary creative powers. These contents are not mere figments, but the signs of a deeper reality, one constantly beckoning to us to push the boundaries of consciousness, what Gopi Krishna called the Evolutionary Impulse.